With the second Test between India and South Africa resuming in Centurion on Saturday (January 13), everyone is waiting with baited breath to see who makes the cut in the Indian playing XI. For the hosts, it’s a problem of plenty when it comes to the pace attack and Ottis Gibson’s Caribbean approach.
Over in Australia, the shift in formats also means a shift in focus of players with Marcus Stoinis ready to get back into international cricket after a personal tragedy, and Australia’s newest pace sensation geared up for his debut.
Meanwhile, Mint analyses how Indian pace bowlers are becoming better overseas, and The Independent talks to Jonathan Trott about his work with the England Under-19 team during the ongoing U-19 World Cup in New Zealand.
India must crack selection jigsaw (The Hindu)
Batting could be testing, but may not be as hazardous as at Newlands since there should be less sideways deviation. But then, this is Highveld (the Afrikaans term for a region situated at a higher altitude) and there is bound to be assistance for the seamers. For South Africa, the series is up for grabs. India needs to strike back here to take the series into the decider. The team winning the toss here might opt to bat since the surface, becoming drier, could quicken up from the second day because of the hot weather. Then, the barren portions of the pitch indicate there might be some assistance for the spinners in the later stages.
Centurion awaits its four horsemen of apocalypso (Indian Express)
They also mention something about the special DNA that goes into making a world-class pacer. The hyperbolic tone and the non-scientific claims betray the raw emotions of a joyous nation getting carried away by the success of their pacers. Even in the past, their quicks have had an intimidating aura but the three men who surgically cut open the World No.1 Test side on the final day of the last Test are special, and collectively different from those past ‘fast-packs’. The South African eye sees things differently. Years of race discrimination have given them a burdened soul and sensitive photoreceptors, those colour-reading tiny optho-cells. For the world, Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander are a dream pace unit with different skill-sets, but for South Africa, they are also black, white and coloured. It’s this rainbow hue that has given the Newlands heroes more acceptability and popularity.
The rise of Indian fast bowlers (Mint)
It was in late 2000 that Zaheer Khan clean-bowled three of Zimbabwe’s tail-enders with yorkers, heralding his arrival as a star performer. The impressive performances of Khan, Ashish Nehra and Javagal Srinath powered India into the final of the 2003 World Cup in South Africa. In the final, though, they were ripped apart by the top-order Australian batsmen who posted a mammoth target of 360 runs for victory. The Indian team lost the match and returned home as runners-up, but not before the team and its fast-bowling squad had established a formidable reputation for themselves. While pacers have been leading the charge abroad, their ability to take wickets on home ground has actually declined in comparison with spinners. This, perhaps, has a lot to do with the quality of pitches, which seem to be getting flatter.
Sachin Tendulkar’s three commandments to Virat Kohli’s Indian cricket team ahead of 2nd Test (Hindustan Times)
“I would say India had their moments to turn the screws on South Africa. At 12 for three, the Proteas were in trouble and then Hardik Pandya got the team back. What we missed were partnerships. We had a good chance to win. All we needed to do was tire their bowlers out because with Dale Steyn out, South Africa were a bowler short. If we had played the first 25 overs better, the script could have been different.”
Rohit has hardly made it count in challenging conditions: Kris Srikkanth (The Times of India)
He felt that Rohit is yet to prove his worth despite several chances that have come his way but Rahane has shown he has the technique to excel in challenging conditions and thus should’ve been part of the playing XI. “Well I have the advantage of talking after the game is over but to bench a proven customer [overseas] like [Ajinkya] Rahane and playing Rohit Sharma instead lacked logic,” he said. “In the numerous chances he has received, Rohit has hardly made it count in challenging conditions, while Rahane has shown he has the ability to lift his game when taken out of his comfort zone.”
BCCI allows Mohammad Azharuddin to contest Hyderabad Cricket Association polls (Indian Express)
In effect, his life ban has been lifted. Since the BCCI didn’t challenge Andhra Pradesh High Court order which set aside BCCI’s life ban on “procedural irregularities” grounds, the board will not challenge Azharuddin’s candidature. The Indian Express also understands the board will clear all pending dues of Azharuddin, that includes monthly gratis, and one time benefit handed to former cricketers in the next annual general body meeting.
Eoin Morgan defends Trevor Bayliss before one-day series against Australia (The Guardian)
Since Bayliss took over in May 2015, England have won only 15 of his 38 Tests in charge (along with 18 losses and five draws). While calls for his position to be reviewed were met with resistance by the ECB chairman, Colin Graves, and the chief executive, Tom Harrison, Bayliss revealed he will not be seeking a new deal when his contract expires at the end of the 2019 summer. Bayliss’s announcement caught some off guard but Morgan responded in typically bolshy fashion when asked if he was one of them. “TB has been brilliant,” England’s limited-overs captain said. “I don’t know why this is news. He signed a contract until 2019 and has always said the same thing.”
Stoinis finds new meaning after tragedy (Cricket.com.au)
Cricket has understandably been a secondary concern for Stoinis since he first learned his father Chris had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and even more so in November when Chris passed away at the age of 60. Speaking to cricket.com.au last month, Stoinis said former Victorian teammate Peter Handscomb (who lost his father in 2015) and WA coach Justin Langer (whose mother recently passed away) have provided invaluable support and comfort.
England, James Vince, the Under-19 World Cup and a career coming full circle (The Independent, UK)
The Warwickshire man, who played his final Test as an opener back in May 2015, is spending this winter working as a batting coach with the England Under-19 side for a World Cup campaign that begins against Namibia in Queenstown on Sunday. Speaking to The Independent from England’s base two hours south of Christchurch, Trott admits that shot-making has completely altered the game over the past decade – but he’s adamant that the fundamentals of run-scoring still remain the same.
Aussie pace ace breaking the mould (Cricket.com.au)
A hostile spell to Australian skipper Steve Smith early in the JLT Sheffield Shield competition, a match in which he took six wickets, also left an impression on the national captain. He was even tipped as a potential Ashes bolter by former England skipper Michael Vaughan 12 months ago, and Shane Warne this week put his name forward for the upcoming Test tour of South Africa. A country that is home to one of the modern game’s most prolific wicket-takers who, like Richardson, breaks the mould of the archetypal fast bowler.
Hard-hitting Munro eyeing T20 riches (NZ Herald)
The New Zealand cricketer — who this month topped the rankings as the world’s best Twenty20 batsman and was the first to score three international T20 centuries — will discover whether his transition to play as a limited-overs opener convinces a franchise to hire his services, presumably for an unruly sum of cash. He has previously been signed to the Mumbai Indians, but has only played four IPL matches for the Kolkata Knight Riders in 2016. That contract was worth $67,000; a distance from the $2.6 million contracts of Australians David Warner and Steve Smith, and Indian star Virat Kohli’s $3.6m IPL deal which are already locked in for 2018. A lifetime of financial security can come with the bang of a gavel — but speculation and assumptions can prove unfounded. Munro is not getting ahead of himself.